Community Voices: Reactions to the Recent Statement on the LDS Church Public Statement of January 27, 2015
February 1, 2015
In many ways I feel the statement is a big step forward for the church. I know it is hard to be completely positive by some of the things that were said and the attitude that was carried with them. I feel like this is a big step and in some ways this can help make things better and in other ways it makes things harder. I am hoping that things will continue to be respectful, and that all sides can follow the Savior’s example of love, kindness, and compassion. While we may not understand all things I know that throughout my experiences in life that the only way to get respect it to show it. I have a heart full of many different thoughts and perspectives and in so many ways I am trying to digest all of what has occurred and I am still hopeful and I am still sure in knowing that Heavenly Father loves me and knows my heart and knows how I am feeling. I want to send love and support to all of my LGBT brothers and sisters and remind you that we are not alone.
Christian Jacob Frandsen
My initial reaction to the press conference was largely negative, but as days passed and Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson clarified their intentions in subsequent interviews, I felt better about the whole thing. I am still immensely pleased to finally hear church leadership use the acronym LGBT and I am hopeful that this practice will find its way into General conference and broader church parlance. Equally encouraging was Sister Marriott’s acknowledgement of historical discrimination against gay people and the legitimacy of the LGBT rights movement. I am also thrilled about the comments Elder Christofferson made in the Q&A about active church members being free to support gay rights and same sex marriage while still remaining in good standing in the church. Another very positive moment was Elder Oaks’ unequivocal disapproval of families who disown or kick out their gay children. I hope this statement will be widely circulated. Most of all, I was moved by the way Elder Christofferson spoke about his brother and the unconditional love the Christofferson family has shown Tom both in and out of church activity. All in all, though church leaders did misstep and misspeak during their media appearances this week, I am confident they are making efforts in good faith to shore up the schism between the LDS church and the LGBT community.
The LDS church’s publicity stunt regarding LGBT rights left me profoundly disappointed. It felt a lot like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Until they can stop saying “we support LGBT rights, but…,” their message is useless to any kind of progress. They exhibited a complete ignorance to the heart of the matter which is that they are losing individuals and families by the hundreds over their lack of understanding on this issue. Children and adults are dying. As they continue to dangle the carrot many will continue to recognize the trap and turn to more healthy, affirming environments and maybe religions. I believe Bishop Gene Robison said it best in his recent article: “Anti-discrimination bills, as the adjective would suggest, are meant to protect those named from being discriminated against. The Mormons’ “new” stance merely proclaims that they now favor bills which would bar discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as long as those who discriminate against them are given protection for doing so. Such a twisted and distorted approach stretches both the language and the substance of such legislation into an unrecognizable shape and takes us into the realm of the absurd.”
As the mother of a gay son, I have felt incredibly sad over the last few days. I was momentarily hopeful before I realized that the warm hug was more like a chokehold on our dear gay brothers and sisters. I keep hearing the words from Isaiah 29:13. I feel like these apostles of The Lord are giving lip service, but their hearts are far from the way Christ himself would treat our LGBTQ friends. The unwillingness to at least apologize for pain rendered by past rhetoric is beyond my comprehension as a life long Latter-Day Saint. And the continued desire to prevent such wonderful people from enjoying the same rights and privileges that they themselves do is nothing short of bigotry. Our family centered church is indeed destroying families.
One of my personal heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, when asked to sit in segregated seating in a Birmingham, Alabama, auditorium while attending the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in 1938, chose to sit in a chair in the aisle. During my life, I have sat in my chair in the aisle between the many communities I am a part of to show that discrimination against anyone is discrimination against everyone. The LDS Church’s recent LGBT rights announcement makes me feel that not only do I need to keep sitting in my chair in the aisle but that I also need to buckle in for a bumpy ride. I, like Eleanor, hope for a future where God’s children do not experience segregation by law or doctrine in either a religious or secular environment. LDS scripture teaches us in 2 Nephi 26:33 and again in Doctrine and Covenants – Official Declaration 2 (2013) “all are alike unto God”. I await the day that every LGBT Mormon “sitting in the aisle” between being LGBT-affirming and having full membership in the Church can retire their “virtual” folding chair back to where it belongs – somewhere in the ward cultural hall.
I understand why many LGBT Mormons are reacting to the churches statement with frustration. I felt some of that frustration myself. We have been subjected to all of the kinds of discrimination that Elder Oaks complains that Church members are now beginning to experience, and so much more. And the church just did not seem to care about the pain that we were experiencing until it began to lose in the ballot box. I understand the pain and the skepticism. Still, this is in scope the broadest and strongest statement in support of anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT people that the church has ever made. It has the potential to dramatically shift the conversation about LGBT rights in the states and countries where Mormons are politically influential, as well as in LDS wards and families. Elder Holland’s statement about religious exemptions was moderate and qualified, not at all a statement in support of a blanket right to refuse service that many have seemed to imply. I don’t expect any conversation across difference to be easy, and I’m always grateful for an improved conversation.
There are positives in the statement, and I am glad to hear they will support antidiscrimination legislation. However, it seems like for every step they take forward, then there are two steps backward. I do not like that they are asking for exemptions. “Yes, we will support anti-discrimination legislation, as long as it does not apply to us. I can not agree with that.”
Peter van der Walt
I absolutely agree with the Church. Same-sex marriage is indeed a religious freedom issue. I believe – and I am not alone in this – that same-sex marriage is a moral and spiritual right. To insist that some churches’ opposition be enshrined in secular law is to say those churches are better than others. That one person’s religious convictions should trump another’s in the public sphere. On the one hand the church asks for protections of their rights to be legally put in place – so that all others in the public sphere must respect their rights. On the other hand they insist that their view alone (and those of churches who do not affirm LGBT people as equal) must be respected when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage. That is a double standard which – I am sad to say – typifies the behavior of the LDS on the LGBT issue. It has for years. It is currently being sugarcoated – and that is nice. We just pity them now, instead of shocking them with electrodes, forcing them to marry people they are not naturally attracted to or excommunicating them (at least in some wards, most of the time). It is all good and well to call for mutual respect and nicer tactics. Boycotts and intimidation aren’t nice. Nor are the kind of things you can be fined for by the FPPC. But to recast the LDS as the victim in the matter of Prop 8 is, frankly, disgusting. If bridges are truly to be built — if reconciliation is ever to take place — it must proceed from a place of honesty. Not PR. I believe in God because I found faith in the pages of the Book of Mormon. I believe Joseph was a Prophet. I am not a member of the Church. For eight years, I have fought to keep my faith – despite its actions. To be honest – what the church does to its own membership is its own business. Insisting that the rest of the world go along with them, is, unfortunately, not just their business. I take no issue that the church sees my partner and me as intrinsically immoral and fundamentally flawed for our rather pedestrian lifestyles. But their insistence that this view should apply as secular law? When you pick on people’s families – even in a sweet tone – it upsets them. Given this church’s track record on these matters – and say, the body count – they can hardly be surprised if people refuse to take it. To insist everyone just keep sweet, at this point, is just so shameless.
I acknowledge that the LDS Church’s press conference and follow-up interviews present a double-edged sword, especially to those who are the ones living with the burden of discrimination. What was thought-provoking and surprising to me was the church’s request for lawmakers to “do the hard work of compromise,” and for both sides to be willing to “give up” something. This does not sound like typical ‘all or nothing’ Mormon mentality. Also, the plea for balanced treatment, saying we shouldn’t discuss issues pertinent to one group (LGBT), without also giving consideration to an opposing group’s needs (the religious) to live according to the dictates of their conscience. That is hard for me to argue with in principle, except I really don’t see how equal treatment of employment or housing for LGBT persons impinges upon the religious rights of others. However, perhaps as people with opposing viewpoints talk and listen to each other, much needed progress will be forged somewhere in the middle.
I have mixed feelings about this news conference. I am happy to see such a unified and strong push to achieve equal employment and housing opportunities for LGBT persons made by the Church leaders so publically. However, I considered the conference to be an excuse to justify church activities and behaviors to the public eye and issue a demand to have the Church and its members be left alone. It is true that some activities go overboard in attacking religious freedoms, however they are only following the examples provided by their religiously active fellow citizens. If the conference was about LGBT rights then that is what should have been addressed, if the conference was about Religious rights then that is what should have been addressed, not both together as it only breeds confusion. Elder Christofferson did say that there was no announcement of a change in doctrine “today”. That seemed to leave the door open for future revelation which is something that neither of the other two Apostles felt comfortable doing. Lastly, I was very impressed by Sister Marriott’s words and felt that she had a more solid understanding of what the issues at hand were and how to address them.
This recent statement from church leaders is more of a pattern I personally have seen in recent church statements and conferences. I hear and feel the voice of God through some of those speaking. I also hear, for lack of a better expression, “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.” One side of me wants to point an accusatory finger, wondering why the supposed “only true church” seems to be grasping at straws. I love Dieter Uchtdorf’s question, “How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?” and want to ask exactly that when I hear people say that they “know” or that certain things will “never” change. Yet another voice reminds me when I myself held strongly to views I learned growing up in the church, opposite of what I now see. I accept that we are all (including those leaders at the top) learning and changing. Perhaps what bothers me most is the belief I once held – and that I’m afraid many still hold – that somehow being made a General Authority means one clearly understands God’s will in all things and shouldn’t be questioned. In summary, I feel this is a good lesson teaching me to continue to adjust my expectations of the Church.